Despite starting his week with a maximum 147 break and seeing off the challenges of experienced talents Tom Ford, Ricky Walden and Judd Trump, China’s Cao started the finale as a huge underdog – he defied that billing right from the off.
World No 20 Robertson was left in his chair for much of the opening exchanges, with the man from Guangzhou barely putting a foot wrong as he stormed into a 3-1 lead.
Breaks of 82, 72 and 70 were crucial in establishing that lead – both men were confident coming into the match but Cao looked more so initially in the tournament climax, taking a considered approach but sinking some magical long-pots including a beauty in the fourth frame.
The 27-year-old Cao is 47 places lower than Robertson in the world rankings but that gap is certain to narrow with the Chinese cueman displaying the kind of class all week that cannot be temporary, in his first ranking final. The Australian former world No 1 got things back to 3-2 but it was a brief respite as Cao relentlessly fired in half-century breaks to give him a 5-3 lead at the end of the first session.
Post interval, the 35-year-old from Melbourne delivered the highest break of the final, 132 in the tenth frame, bringing the score back to 6-4 and offering hint of a comeback.
But Robertson’s occasional brilliance was no match for Cao’s consistency as he took over once again, building the lead to 8-4 and minutes away from a first ever ranking title.
But once again the pendulum swung and nerves suddenly attacked Cao as he feathered more shots in the would-be decider than he had all match. The 2010 world champion sensed his opponents nerves and offered him only tricky shots, the tactic seeing him get back to 8-7.
In the 16th though Cao regained his composure, but watched his tournament-winning black rattle over the pocket, leaving Robertson an easy pot as the game went to a decider.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s John Higgins has spoken about his disappointment at not reaching a second Dafabet Scottish Open final in a row after his defeat to Robertson on Saturday.
Higgins lost out to the Cambridge-based potter 6-3, and conceded that his opponent was stronger on the night. “The better man won out there,” said Higgins. “I’m disappointed but he totally, totally outplayed me.
“I’ve always rated him as such a great player and he always plays like that against me and against most people anyway – he’s a top player.
“There was no way I deserved anything other than the loss. I’ll have a couple of weeks off and then I’ll come back.”
lWatch the Scottish Open live on Eurosport, Eurosport Player and Quest with Andy Goldstein and analysis from Jimmy White and Neal Foulds.